#Discover Interviews. How will we be able to read post-pandemic, when the Museum of the Romanian Book and Exile opens and what we learned from the pandemic, with Lucian Dindirică, the manager of the "Aman" Library

If there are things that have changed in the pandemic, well, those are our behaviors, everyone's. The same thing happened with the County Library "Alexandru şi Aristia Aman" from Craiova, which has adapted to the online and is preparing even more than it already does, for the future. About the plans, the opening of the Museum of Book and Romanian Exile, about culture and how it unites people, we talked about everything at a coffee with the manager of the institution, Lucian Dindirică. 

How has the County Library adapted to the pandemic conditions of the last two years?

I think we were the first library in the country to go completely online, when the pandemic broke out and all the restrictions were put in place. I remember - here my experience as a television journalist helped me - in three days we managed to enter in an online format, live on the YouTube channel and on Facebook for our younger users. A few colleagues had to be trained in a few days to cope with online stories, to overcome the clutter of the room, the shame of appearing in public, live. For the older ones, we needed a weekend, right that weekend immediately after the state of emergency, in which we digitized all the school bibliography for the Baccalaureate exam for those who were in the 12th grade and for the National Assessment exam, for those in the eighth grade. We had to bend; if we didn't bend, we would probably become, like many others, an institution about which you can ask yourself the question "why does it exist if they can't help us and serve us when we need it?". The spring 2020 period was exactly the prelude to these exams; we also needed to do this for students and not just for those who had to take exams. At the end of 2020, when we drew the line, we were extremely excited, sometimes even shocked, by the large number of online interactions with our audience. We are talking about over 5.5 million views on the library's Facebook page, where almost everything took place online: conferences, workshops, courses, absolutely everything. The fact that people accepted us anyway - for some it was harder - proved to us that we can serve the world differently than in the classic format. Now we are forced, somehow, after the pandemic, to mix the previous practices with the later ones, because we have accustomed people like that.
Biblioteca Aman - facebook

Are you aiming towards a digitization of books for online access for those who want to read?

In the past, we were was also digitizing to save the old collections. Anyway, I think we have a few hundred thousand, if not 800,000 digitized pages. We started with all the collections of old local magazines, which were very important: the Archives of Oltenia, the magazine of the Metropolitan Church of Oltenia, the most important local scientific magazines and the most sought after. We then entered the digitalization of newspapers from the interwar period and towards our era, because newspapers are important and are the kind of works that are destroyed very quickly, given the quality of the paper on which they are printed. The pandemic has shown us that the clear direction is to launch an online library accessible to our users. Which is why we had a discussion with our colleagues who deal with this area of ​​computer science and are much better connected to the new library products in digital format and we decided that it is best to have an application that we hope to develop next year in full, and in that application to be able to borrow books in digital format. We already have a number of e-books purchased, but they are not very accessible, even if we live in a pandemic area.

Maybe people don't know about them ...

It is known, but we do not have a culture in our area of ​​the e-book-reader to sit in the bag and to use. I think that the existence of an application that is much more widespread and can be uploaded on any device and finding an option to make the loan available for a certain number of days, to be able to sign your book when you stop reading are very important. It's better to do something serious from the beginning than to annoy our users. We already have more important, scientific books available online in our catalog. On www.aman.ro anyone can create an account in an extremely fast way and there are several thousand books already available in digital format. Obviously we apply some copying methods to them, fully respecting copyright. The pandemic has shown us that we need to take fast steps towards digitization, and IT is the only way we can go to meet our remote users.
Catalog de cărți online

We have branches of the library in the big neighborhoods of the city. Basically, people can be closer to the library without coming to headquarters.

They are our traditional branches and we reopened the branch in Craiovița Nouă, a very large neighborhood that had a very captive audience, just like all the others. The branches are mini-libraries, with a small number of volumes, although we boast that we are up to date with the books in these branches. For those who want to study or research, the headquarters remains the most suitable. The family of readers in the branches is always in the attention of those from Public Relations, in order to always stay in touch with the users. At the moment, on the reports we have about the subsidiaries, things are not bad for us at all. We managed to keep up with the appearances of the new book. The sums we receive annually for this field from the Dolj County Council are not to be neglected at all, and this puts us in a leading place in the country, at libraries that have an extremely important number of newly published books. Users know that, from the moment a book appears on the market, in a maximum of three months they can come to borrow it from the shelf. The process is quite long from the purchase to the arrival of the books on the shelf. During this time, we started sterilizing the books, because that's how things were made to be. Now, we sterilize them not because we are told, but because we want to, because we are asked by people if they are sterile. And, then, the books that are newcomers are quarantined from the Collection Processing, and those that return from the market are also quarantined, and others also go into sterilization.

Speaking of the pandemic, I know that it also prevents you from officially opening the Museum of the Romanian Book and Exile.

It keeps us in place. From our point of view, and not only from ours, this institution is the most important institution in Romania, it is unique in the European space which had, over time, during the communist period, a fairly consistent exile in the West, and the opening of an institution of such magnitude for our national culture cannot be an event that takes place online and that we just tick. In the plans we made together with the leadership of Dolj County Council, we hope that somewhere around May-June 2022 will be the final point where we can say that the opening ceremony will take place. We want to have distinguished guests, as much as possible we want to bring the people who donated documents to us, because we are talking about donations that amount to millions of euros, they are people who add value to this institution and our culture. The part of correspondence, of manuscripts are archival goods that can be easily classified in the category "treasure" even if they are only 80 years old. They are unique, very important, they can come to shake certain opinions that existed. From Vintilă Horia alone we have over 30 boxes of manuscripts and letters. We are talking about thousands of private letters between him and many people of culture in Romania and in the world that we had no idea existed and about which we still have no idea what they contain. We cannot conceive, therefore, an inauguration of a museum of exile without, for example, at least one of Vintilă Horia's daughters being in Craiova, at the opening of this institution. I am thinking of the Mămăligă family, who are still alive and have heirs; Leonid no longer exists, but the family is the one that, for 30 years, financially and morally maintained the Romanian exile or the Romanian emigration from Paris from that period of sad memory. Like them, there are many, Andrei Șerban, those from Canada, Andrei Codrescu from the United States. There are personalities who must be present at this inauguration. If we have traffic restrictions, restriction of meetings or of the number of people, the opening will be almost impossible.

In addition to the institution of the museum itself, the Dolj County Council restored to the tourist circuit the Dianu House, the place where this museum will operate. What can you tell us about the works, how meticulous were they, what will people find there?

I couldn't even say they were meticulous. Moreover, in a more non-academic expression, it is the work of an old Chinese. Seeing it now, looking at it, it is a miracle. From the hands of those people who spent days and nights there came something that you must see. It is a building as beautiful as the Art Museum; it is not as big, it does not have all those decorations, but here each room is a work of art. The brightness of a building that we were looking at three years ago was restored and we thought it had a little more and it was falling. And that area of ​​monumental doors, windows, all made by the mastery of artists who bent over the place with dedication and passion, all this made it a must visit in Craiova, a tourist attraction itself, leaving aside the part of the collections it will contain.

We, those from Discover Dolj, consider that the cultural institutions, therefore also the “Aman” Library, are ambassadors of the county. How do you see the "Aman" Library and what role does it play in the county?

As cultural ambassadors and not only, I agree with you and I believe that each institution, in its area of ​​interest and opportunities to get involved, must do something for the city and the county. Willingly or unwillingly, a cultural institution can bring a citizen, a very important person, who is not related to the county or the institution, but who becomes a close friend of the city. I could give you as an example, for the library, Professor Apostolos Patelakis from Salonic, Greece. I met him at the conferences we organize in Craiova, and over time our closeness brought a benefit to both our city and his city, because he was born and raised in Craiova. Through him, we managed to bring very close the two localities, Dolj County Council and Periphery there, we managed to bring to the county library two deputy governors of Macedonia who had bilateral meetings here, and the same thing happened in Salonic. We look forward to the period in which restrictions and the pandemic can allow these economic and cultural forums to continue. Through culture, you can truly be a much easier way to communicate than through a classic one.

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